The Six Rules of Maybe: Reviews « Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti

The Six Rules of Maybe: Reviews

School Library Journal
Caletti invites readers into Scarlet Hughes’s life and all its “maybes.” The introspective teen copes when her charismatic older sister, Juliet, shows up suddenly married (and pregnant) after time away at a Portland hotel singing gig. Both Scarlet and her mother quickly come to adore her husband–Scarlet perhaps a little too much. Hayden is not only smart and good-looking, but he is also funny, great at listening, and deeply in love with Juliet. He writes her poetry and love notes, which Scarlet cannot help but read. She also can’t seem to stop trying to help her motley collection of neighbors. The elderly couple too easily conned by Internet scams, the Goth girl whose chalk drawings inspire some prom date interference, and the retired postal worker who is flirting with senility are all part of Scarlet’s habit of trying to fix things. Maybe she can stop her sister’s tendency to run scared of the commitment Hayden offers her and her yearning for her train wreck of an old boyfriend. Maybe she can convince her mother that she shouldn’t marry someone who spends all his time criticizing her. Maybe she can make up with the friend whose crush seems to like Scarlet instead. All of these dealings are about hope as the fuel of one’s dreams and efforts, about the frequent necessity of persistence, and about how to know when to let go. Reminiscent of the best of Sarah Dessen’s work, this novel is beautifully written, deftly plotted, and movingly characterized.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review):
Juliet was always in the lead, and I was her echo.” So says seventeen-year-old Scarlet about her older sister, who is once again in the lead, having returned home with a husband neither Scarlet nor her mother have ever heard of, let alone met, and a baby on the way. As the summer progresses, Scarlet grows close to Hayden, Juliet’s husband, and begins to worry that Juliet’s old selfishness is going to destroy her new family even before it’s established. Caletti’s fluid, musing style and keen perceptions serve her particularly well in this depiction of Scarlet’s summer of maturation; it’s not so much that the external events are momentous as they believably provide just enough impetus for Scarlet to enrich and transform her view of herself, her sister, and her family. Scarlet’s characterization is particularly original: a happy meddler in people’s lives, she adores leaving secret gifts and pulling strings in ways that will bring joy, and she empathizes too much with clingy lonely outsiders to tell them to get lost. Her relationship with Hayden, a combination of friendship, protectiveness, and crush, is touching and credible, and it provides an effective agent for her increasing flashes of greater understanding. The fact that all three women, Scarlet, Juliet, and their mother, struggle with their view of men is explored with particular depth and subtlety, each is affected in her own way not only by the departure of Scarlett and Juliet’s father but by the responses of the other two to that fact. This is a kind of reconsideration that’s a key component of maturation, and young adults in the thick of the process will find much of themselves in Scarlet’s journey.

While 17-year-old Scarlet Ellis has always been the nice one in her family, her moody, selfish older sister, Juliet, has always been quick to dump a long line of boyfriends. Although they were once close as children, their now-tenuous relationship becomes even more difficult when Juliet returns to their Pacific Northwest island home, married to gorgeous, romantic Hayden—and pregnant.

As Juliet pushes away her new husband and chases after her one serious high school boyfriend, Scarlet is trying hard not to fall in love with Hayden. She dedicates herself, as always, to rescuing those around her, including her eccentric neighbors: a retired mailman who has started checking his mail wearing nothing more than his slippers, an artistic Goth girl who wants a date to the prom and an older couple selling their home to answer the email pleas for money from a plantation owner in the Ivory Coast. But eventually she begins to realize that she needs to follow a gift from Hayden: the “Rules of Maybe,” a set of directions to achieve her own dreams, wants and wishes.

Scarlet’s spot-on musings about high school and her elaborate network of relationships lead her to see that she can still be nice while taking care of her own needs and desires. She also begins to understand her relationship with Juliet better, and she may even find a little romance that she doesn’t have to share. These discoveries tug on the heart in all the right places.

RT Book Club Magazine (4 ½ stars):
There’s no denying that Caletti is a wonderfully gifted writer. Her prose is infused with wisdom and wit, and her characters are all deeply layered. Readers of all ages will undoubtedly enjoy this.

Scarlett Hughes is used to involving herself in the lives of everyone around her — until her older sister Juliet moves back home with Hayden, a man who’s suddenly her husband. What’s more, Juliet’s pregnant — and not altogether ecstatic about that fact. Suddenly Scarlett is dealing with her own very complicated life. Hayden is too good to be true, and strangely, Juliet wants little to do with him. And there’s another quietly escalating issue as Scarlett finds herself dealing with complex feelings for Hayden. (SIMON PULSE, Apr., 336 pp., $16.99, ISBN: 9781416979692, HC, 12 and Up)

The Horn Book:
Caletti tells her layered, engaging story in her usual style that includes lots of introspection on the part of her narrator, a multitude of fascinating characters, and loads of skillfully crafted sentences that will entice readers racing through to slow down and re-read with pleasure before speeding on again.
— Jennifer M. Brabander, Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2010

The New York Public Library: Anne Rouyer

For a librarian, discovering a great new book is a definite perk of the job. Every once in awhile — not often, mind you — I find a book that sends a tingle up my spine. A book that makes me sit back and go, “Wow”. A book where the caliber and honesty of the writing, and the truth of the characters pull you out of yourself and bring you a better understanding of who you are. A book from the recent past that did that (and still does) for me is “The Truth About Forever” by Sarah Dessen. Recently, I discovered that same shiver of self-discovery with “The Six Rules of Maybe,” a new book by Deb Caletti.

The Six Rules of Maybe
tells the story of 16 year old Scarlet, who lives on a remote island in the Puget Sound, not far from Seattle, Washington, with her single mom. Scarlet spends most of her time helping others with their problems, because its easier than helping herself. One day, her flaky older sister turns up on the doorstep pregnant, with her new husband, Hayden, in tow. Scarlet feels an instant connection to Hayden. It shatters her stagnant world and changes how she views herself forever.

From the first chapter, I was struck by Scarlet’s voice and how honest and true it was. There were so many moments where I stopped, re-read the paragraph and went, “Oh, my goodness! Thats me!” Scarlet is a girl who has friends but also enjoys being alone. “In our society,” she says, “introversion is an alternate lifestyle….Introversion is distrusted – it makes people nervous.” Which is so true! Who hasn’t felt like a loser for wanting to stay home on Friday night because thats how society deems it. She’s also a liar because it is simpler than telling the truth. “…Lying evened things out. [It] smoothed the rocky spaces between people…It kept things simple and running smoothly, even if that meant you held hard to your own secrets.” There is so much truth and beauty in Scarlet’s words that Caletti has not only gotten to the heart of Scarlet’s vulnerabilities, but the rest of ours as well.

Hayden’s arrival shakes Scarlet’s world to the core. He’s her brother-in-law, let’s remember, and the feelings she has for him are forbidden. At first, she calls it infatuation. The connection they have, the ease of their flirtatious conversations and the way he understands her make her feelings grow. It doesn’t help that she finds beautiful love letters he writes to her seemingly aloof sister. It’s in one of these letters that she finds his ” Six Rules of Maybe”. He uses “maybe” as another word for hope. They are about the power of possibility and persistence, of letting people in and, if necessary, learning to let them go to begin again.

It would be easy to say that with such a premise, Scarlet won’t get her happy ending. Maybe, though, she’ll get the one she needs and not the one she wishes for late at night. Hayden’s six rules may not lead Scarlet to him, but they do offer her a path to her family, friends and neighbors. It is not an easy lesson to trust and open your heart. Caletti has written a novel that illustrates this — its complications and its rewards. Scarlet, the lessons, the Rules, and the meaning they bring to your own life stay with you long after the book has been closed.
This may be the best Deb Caletti book yet. You will not regret checking it out.

To their mother’s ambitious-for-her-daughter disappointment, Scarlet’s older sister Juliet abandons her career as a singer to come back home. Scarlet has mixed feelings about the return of the prodigal daughter. At home, their single mother is generally loving, but she has always placed most of her attention on charismatic, gorgeous, sociable, unreliable Juliet — often leaving quiet, contemplative Scarlet to brood on her own.

Scarlet’s feelings are further complicated when it turns out that Juliet is pregnant, and she has in tow an absolutely adorable husband named Hayden. While Juliet is dismissive of Hayden and takes his love for granted, Scarlet essentially falls head over heels for him, drinking in his humor, his dog Zeus, his manly wrists, and his incredible decency — along with his considerable good looks. When Scarlet sneaks peeks at the love notes and romantic poetry Hayden leaves for his careless wife, she aches with envy.

Scarlet is a funny and sympathetic main character who defends introversion as “an alternate lifestyle that gets less respect than any other alternate lifestyle.” She specializes in being nice, reading psychology textbooks to gain insight into what others are lacking in their lives, and then trying to fill that gap for them. Scarlet is the listener and advisor for her friends. She goes out of the way to treat the truly strange people in her world with loving kindness. For example, she leaves her Goth artist neighbor, who creates sidewalk art featuring a telling meld of her family with vampires, notes praising her talent. Scarlet also tries to keep her gullible elderly neighbors from being sucked in by an
Internet scam and hopes to protect another neighbor suffering the beginnings of dementia.

And yet Scarlet would be the first to admit that she is far from perfect. She detests her mother’s boyfriend, the priggish Dean. She tries to dodge her own high school admirer/stalker, repugnant Reilly Ogden, who is such a sad case that Scarlet can’t bring herself to be blunt about her wish to be left alone. Scarlet is also an accomplished liar even about minor things, such as telling people she had her hair styled by a professional when she actually just hacked it off with the kitchen shears.

Now, Scarlet finds herself in a nearly unbearable conundrum. She wonders about her new niece or nephew, nicknamed “Jitter” by Hayden. Scarlet knows Hayden will be a loving, attentive father, but she has doubts about her sister’s ability to selflessly parent. She is terribly torn because she really wants Hayden and Jitter for herself, and yet she loves Hayden enough to want for him what will make him happy — which happens to be Juliet. Scarlet knows her romantic dreams about Hayden are impossible, even as she and her new brother-in-law form a close friendship.

Author Deb Caletti has yet to make a misstep, and this book is a shining example of her talent. The characters, in all their quirky and human glory, could walk right off the pages. The plot is compelling and beautifully paced, interwoven with several intriguing subplots. In this exquisite tale of romance, hope, tragedy and humor, we find gem-like and truly moving bits of hard-won wisdom as Scarlet yearns for the impossible — and finds much more than she ever could have imagined.
— Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (

Publishers Weekly
When 17-year-old Scarlett’s older sister, Juliet, moves back home pregnant, she brings with her a romantic new husband “she’d never before even mentioned.” While Scarlett’s feelings for Hayden grow—she secretly reads the love notes he writes to Juliet and sneaks out to join him for late-night chats—he remains devoted to her pretty sister, who in turn seems fixated on her loser high school boyfriend. Caletti’s (The Secret Life of Prince Charming) main characters are well drawn and complex, especially mature Scarlett, who, to her own detriment, is constantly looking after everyone else in her life. Readers may find some of Scarlett’s neighbors over the top, such as an elderly couple whose belief in Internet scams leads them to Africa. Scarlett’s devotion to them also seems extreme, but it clarifies both why “being needed sometimes made me feel good” and why she feels connected to kind Hayden. In the end, readers will be willing to overlook some of the more outlandish characters to focus on the moving story involving Scarlett and her family. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Kirkus Reviews
Analyzing other people’s emotions and motivations is Scarlet Ellis’s greatest talent. At school, she’s close to few but a confidante to all. Her quiet home life consists mostly of taking pictures and involving herself in her neighbors’ business. Since childhood she’s idolized her older sister, Juliet, who comes home pregnant and married after years of working as a singer. Scarlet forms a strong bond with Juliet’s husband, Hayden, and becomes convinced that Juliet is cheating on him with her high-school boyfriend. At the same time, Scarlet finds herself falling for Hayden. Narrator Scarlet is content to tell everyone’s story but her own, and as a result, no plot ever really develops beyond her thoughts. Though Scarlet is thoughtful and well read in psychology, many of her observations about other people’s relationships come off as melodramatic rather than enlightening. The most interesting story line involves Scarlet’s matchmaking of two oddball classmates, a feat that shows off her interpersonal skills. Overall, because of her lack of focus and sense of self, readers may have a hard time sympathizing with her. (Fiction. YA)

Seventeen-year-old Scarlet is used to her older sister, Juliet, getting all the attention. Juliet’s the beautiful one who got off Parrish Island, Oregon, and has a job singing in Portland. Then Juliet returns with a new husband, Hayden, and a baby on the way. While Juliet is the kind of girl who’s mostly interested in herself, Scarlet finds herself becoming quite interested in Hayden, who is unrequitedly devoted to Juliet. There are familiar elements here, but Caletti executes them exceedingly well. Scarlet’s adoration of Hayden is both poignant and realistic, her devotion tempered by hopes and fears for the baby. Juliet’s pursuit of an old boyfriend, a bad boy, rings true, especially considering the family history. Still, other elements are over the top, like the subplot about neighbors who seem to have found the one Nigerian e-mailer who wants to make good on a business proposition. Caletti is at her best as she makes the case for the “Rules of Maybe,” how to hope, ways to persist, when to give up, and how to go on. Grades 8-12.
—Ilene Cooper